Game Hens in Apricot, Tequila, and California Chile Sauce

Marcela Valladolid shares one of her most favorite recipes, just in time for the holiday season.

This recipe is one of my favorites ever. It comes from my aunt Marcela, a chef who inspired me to enter the magical world of the culinary arts. We not only share the same name and the same career, we also agree that sweet and spicy is one of the best combinations when preparing Mexican foods.

Store-bought apricot preserves, used here, work well; just be sure to buy the best you can find. A kitchen syringe is a useful tool for injecting the hens with a flavorful mixture of broth, butter, and tequila. The result is a moist and succulent dish.

[ingredients-list title=”Ingredients” serving_size=””]

  • 3 cups chicken broth, or more as needed
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 tablespoons golden tequila
  • Two 2-pound Cornish game hens, thawed if frozen


  • 3 California chiles, stemmed and seeded
  • 1/2 apricot preserves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Fresh apricot halves, for garnish


[step-list-wrapper title=”How to make it” time=””]
[step-item number=”1″ image_url=”” title=”” ]Preheat the oven to 350°F.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”2″ image_url=”” title=”” ]Mix 1/2 cup of the chicken broth, of the melted butter, and 2 tablespoons of the tequila in a small glass bowl. Using a kitchen syringe, inject the mixture all over the hens, about 1/2 inch deep into the flesh. (If the butter in the mixture solidifies, warm it in a microwave.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”3″ image_url=”” title=”” ] Put the chiles and 2 cups of the broth in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove the pan from the heat. Let stand for 5 minutes to soften the chiles. Then transfer the mixture to a blender and puree until smooth. Strain the chile mixture into a small bow, pressing on the sieve to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard whatever is left in the sieve.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”4″ image_url=”” title=”” ]Mix 1/4 cup of the preserves and 1/4 cup of the chile mixture in a medium bowl. Season heavily with salt and pepper. Rub the mixture all over the hens, working some of it between the skin and the breast. Put the hens on a rack in a large roasting pan. Add the remaining 1/2 cup broth to the roasting pan.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”5″ image_url=”” title=”” ] Roast, basting with the pan drippings every 20 minutes, for 1 hour, or until a thermometer inserted into a thigh registers 160°F. Add more broth id the juices begin to dry out. [/step-item]

[step-item number=”6″ image_url=”” title=”” ] Transfer the hens to a platter. Strain the pan juices into a medium saucepan. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons tequila, 1/2 cup apricot preserves, and chile mixture. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, or until the sauce thickens slightly. Season with alt and pepper to taste. Pour the sauce over the hens, garnish the platter with fresh apricot halves, and serve. Serves 4.[/step-item]


From Fresh Mexico: 100 Simple Recipes for True Mexican Flavor, By Marcela Valladolid

Learn more about Marcela and read her blog at

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